Stroke recovery can be enhanced by using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)

Neurophysiol Clin. 2006 May-Jun;36(3):105-15. doi: 10.1016/j.neucli.2006.08.011. Epub 2006 Aug 30.


Post-stroke recovery is based on plastic changes in the central nervous system that can compensate the loss of activity in affected brain regions. In particular, monohemispheric stroke is thought to result in disinhibition of the contralesional unaffected hemisphere. Neurorehabilitation programs improve function partly by enhancing cortical reorganization. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-invasive way of producing potent changes in cortical excitability. Therefore, the application of rTMS was recently proposed to promote functional recovery in stroke patients, owing to the induced neuroplasticity. This review discusses the first clinical results that were obtained by rTMS in patients with post-stroke motor deficit, visuospatial neglect, or aphasia. These results are promising and depend on the site and frequency of stimulation. In summary, functional recovery might be obtained either when rTMS is applied at low-frequency (around 1 Hz) over the disinhibited, unaffected hemisphere in order to restore defective inhibition or when rTMS is applied at high-frequency (5 Hz or more) over the affected hemisphere in order to reactivate hypoactive regions. The overall procedure remains to be optimized, in particular regarding the number of rTMS sessions and the time of rTMS application after stroke. Cortical stimulation is an exciting perspective for improving functional recovery from stroke. Transient application of non-invasive transcranial stimulation during the time of the rehabilitation process will be preferable to the temporary implantation of epidural cortical electrodes, as recently proposed. Therefore, in the future, acute or recent stroke might be a major indication of rTMS in neurological practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aphasia / etiology
  • Aphasia / therapy
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Recovery of Function
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / physiopathology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation*